We sat by the fire in the lodge, the place where members of the university community often gathered to socialize, and talked of spiritual things. My heart was full of God’s love for this man, my friend and my husband’s colleague, at the research station where we lived and worked.
He was speaking (it was his turn). I was letting him talk, making eye contact, nodding occasionally to encourage him, waiting for my chance to reply. He was a follower of Zen, eager to share what he believed with me. At the moment he was saying something about the “Oneness of the Universe.”
I was just as eager to share about Jesus, but I waited, praying and thinking about what I could say next. Something that might reach into his spirit and open his eyes to the truth of the Gospel.
Then, a third party joined the conversation. The still, small voice said to me, “Are you listening to him?”
“Well, yes, Lord. I’m listening and waiting for a chance to speak about You.”
“No,” He said. “Are you listening to him?” (emphasis His)
That moment, and that question changed the way I “do” evangelism forever.
3 Lessons Learned From Listening
What a concept! We should listen to people we care about for Jesus’ sake. When I began to listen to my friend, three things happened.
1) I realized (with deep shame) that I was treating him with respect for the first time in our history of conversing about God. Why had it taken so long? It’s rude not to listen. We, as Christians, should be the last people on earth to be rude to others.
2) I learned some interesting new things. I learned about Zen Buddhism, how Buddhists think, what they believe. My mind opened up. My world became more colorful. I became more informed and aware; enlightened, even!
3) I began to see bridges between what my friend believed and what I believe. Some of those bridges were:
• Christians believe in the “oneness” of the universe too, except, we just believe the “One” in “oneness” is a person, and that “oneness” happens when we choose to submit our spirits to His spirit.
• We believe human beings should behave ethically too. We just believe they can only truly do that in the strength of the “One” we submit to.
• We meditate as well. But we don’t empty our minds. We fill them with truth about the “One.”
Let God Do The Convincing
My conversations with this man continued after that day. In the end, neither of us convinced the other that the other’s way was the Truth. But, the results of sharing Christ with others are not our responsibility, and the end has not really come yet. God will work, in His way and in His time.
I still have a hard time remembering to listen. Talking is so much easier. But, listening is so much more rewarding, in every way. Listening is loving, resting, learning, growing. And in face-to-face, one-on-one situations, listening is essential to sharing the Gospel effectively.
Agree or disagree? Please share your opinion in a comment.